Wellesley Students Participate in Inaugural Wintersession Trip to Tanzania

March 9, 2015
women peeling fruit in Tanzania

On the recent inaugural Wintersession trip to East Africa, 18 Wellesley students had the opportunity to experience firsthand the Swahili language and culture. Guided by visiting lecturer Geofred Osoro and associate professor of Africana studies Pashington Obeng, the students explored Tanzania, including the Ngorongoro crater, Olduvai Gorge, the Mount Kilimanjaro region, Dar es Salaam, and Bagamoyo as well as Zanzibar.

The course integrated classroom study of Swahili with cultural lessons, punctuated by visits to host families.

Jaymee Sheng ’16, a mathematics major, applied to participate in the East Africa Wintersession trip out of curiosity. Sheng says living in Tanzania was a great way to improve her Swahili skills. “The mornings mostly consisted of Swahili lessons focused on a specific topic,” she says. “Then we would spend the afternoon engaging with the local community while practicing what we learned earlier. For example, one day we learned about names of fruits and vegetables and how to bargain in Swahili. Afterward, we went to a local market in Arusha, and each of us had to buy three different items within a given budget.”

Sophomore Hye Sun Yun ’17 also enjoyed that experience. “[Bargaining in the markets] was challenging at first, but I think I learned a lot through actually practicing my Swahili in real life,” she says.

Yun grew up in South Africa and Botswana, but she had yet to visit East Africa. During Wintersession, she was exposed to a culture that was entirely new to her. Yun particularly enjoyed the trip to Zanzibar and the chance to learn about African cooking. “We all got to participate in cooking some of Tanzanian dishes–like chapati, mbuzi, ndizi,” she says. “We even got to see the slaughtering of the goat and chickens.”

Davis Scholar Linda Kosinski had studied Swahili for several semesters before joining the Wintersession trip. “I felt actually being able to immerse myself in the culture and the place, Tanzania, where Swahili is the native language, would be a fantastic opportunity,” she says. Once she arrived, she says, “[l]earning the rhythm and pace of Swahili as one was conversing with another was unforgettable.” Kosinski also appreciated the chance to live with a Tanzanian host family for the first week of the session.

“When we study in a regular contained space, we are not often reminded of just how incredible this world is and the endless opportunities we have to make a positive impact on it,” says participant Emily Chen ’16. “Studying on location changes that because you are immersed in a new and stimulating environment that you have to constantly adapt to. I learned something new every moment of this trip, whether that was through an educational, cultural, or personal experience.”

Learn more about Swahili language and Africana Studies at Wellesley.

–Katelyn Campbell ’17 contributed to this story.